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Genesis 4:11-15

Context
4:11 So now, you are banished 1  from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 4:12 When you try to cultivate 2  the

ground it will no longer yield 3  its best 4  for you. You will be a homeless wanderer 5  on the earth.” 4:13 Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment 6  is too great to endure! 7  4:14 Look! You are driving me off the land 8  today, and I must hide from your presence. 9  I will be a homeless wanderer on the earth; whoever finds me will kill me.” 4:15 But the Lord said to him, “All right then, 10  if anyone kills Cain, Cain will be avenged seven times as much.” 11  Then the Lord put a special mark 12  on Cain so that no one who found him would strike him down. 13 

1 tn Heb “cursed are you from the ground.” As in Gen 3:14, the word “cursed,” a passive participle from אָרָר (’arar), either means “punished” or “banished,” depending on how one interprets the following preposition. If the preposition is taken as indicating source, then the idea is “cursed (i.e., punished) are you from [i.e., “through the agency of”] the ground” (see v. 12a). If the preposition is taken as separative, then the idea is “cursed and banished from the ground.” In this case the ground rejects Cain’s efforts in such a way that he is banished from the ground and forced to become a fugitive out in the earth (see vv. 12b, 14).

2 tn Heb “work.”

3 tn Heb “it will not again (תֹסֵף, tosef) give (תֵּת, tet),” meaning the ground will no longer yield. In translation the infinitive becomes the main verb, and the imperfect verb form becomes adverbial.

4 tn Heb “its strength.”

5 tn Two similar sounding synonyms are used here: נָע וָנָד (navanad, “a wanderer and a fugitive”). This juxtaposition of synonyms emphasizes the single idea. In translation one can serve as the main description, the other as a modifier. Other translation options include “a wandering fugitive” and a “ceaseless wanderer” (cf. NIV).

6 tn The primary meaning of the Hebrew word עָוֹן (’avon) is “sin, iniquity.” But by metonymy it can refer to the “guilt” of sin, or to “punishment” for sin. The third meaning applies here. Just before this the Lord announces the punishment for Cain’s actions, and right after this statement Cain complains of the severity of the punishment. Cain is not portrayed as repenting of his sin.

7 tn Heb “great is my punishment from bearing.” The preposition מִן (min, “from”) is used here in a comparative sense.

8 tn Heb “from upon the surface of the ground.”

9 sn I must hide from your presence. The motif of hiding from the Lord as a result of sin also appears in Gen 3:8-10.

10 tn The Hebrew term לָכֵן (lakhen, “therefore”) in this context carries the sense of “Okay,” or “in that case then I will do this.”

11 sn The symbolic number seven is used here to emphasize that the offender will receive severe punishment. For other rhetorical and hyperbolic uses of the expression “seven times over,” see Pss 12:6; 79:12; Prov 6:31; Isa 30:26.

12 tn Heb “sign”; “reminder.” The term “sign” is not used in the translation because it might imply to an English reader that God hung a sign on Cain. The text does not identify what the “sign” was. It must have been some outward, visual reminder of Cain’s special protected status.

13 sn God becomes Cain’s protector. Here is common grace – Cain and his community will live on under God’s care, but without salvation.



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